Coaches' timeouts are worse. Basketball teams should get one, full stop.
Due to the not-overwhelming-but-still-pleasant response from last week’s Bruce Willis montage, I figured I would try this week to both recap the season so far in UM football, plus this past week’s prominent games, with one of America’s most storied thespians. Please feel free to comment away on the quality in the, um, well, comments section.
The Season So Far, or as I like to call it, the 6+1 Degrees of Kevin Bacon Recap
After two disheartening seasons, the talk at the end of last season was that Rich Rodriguez needed to start winning or else it would be the
for him in Ann Arbor. Reports during the offseason pointed to the offense making strides even while the defense suffered from a lack of depth and a dearth of talent at key positions. All was relatively quiet until
could be felt emanating miles away in a nondescript building in Detroit. This rumbling was caused by the furious digging of one misguided newspaper’s attempt to generate headlines (and relevance) by “exposing” the deep-rooted NCAA violations going on in Schembechler Hall. RR was characterized as a criminal guilty of
for what amounted to a couple of extra hours of stretching and some tangential football personnel watching unofficial practices and weight sessions. Undaunted by reality, pundits and reporters across the various media streams let loose with a flood of chest-thumping and invectives about the “transgressions” going on under RR,
with false accusations and fears of the
being handed down by the NCAA. The Internet’s reaction was, perhaps unsurprisingly, split, with some treating these accusations as gospel while others accused the media of being actors in a conspiracy that would make the
investigations seem like child’s play.
But as we all remember, not much came of it. Despite the accusations and rabid media treatment, the truth ultimately came out, leaving everyone with the impression that the author of the “expose” was just a
, and soon the focus turned to RR
with Denard Robinson as the starting QB. Perhaps not surprisingly, the message boards and radio stations were a veritable
of individuals questioning the wisdom in this move. But on a
day in the beginning of September, Robinson and the rest of the Wolverines cast aside the tumultuous
and blasted Connecticut. Next came Notre Dame and another epic performance by Robinson, as the sporting world began to wonder if he was UM’s
And as the team raced out to a 5-0 start despite games that would leave no fans
there was a sense that this season would not be the like the two previous, that UM was back as a national power.
Unfortunately, the last two games have tempered these expectations, as it became clear that this team, gutted by injuries, transfers, and other player departures, was lacking in
especially on the defensive side of the ball. The pundits and opposing fans, so quiet during the 5-0 start, are back out in full force, questioning whether RR will ever be able to win at UM. From their high horses,
apparently so clear that even the smell of hypocrisy cannot reach them, they have already begun the countdown to RR’s demise, even with nearly 1/2 a season to still be played.
for this team is probably somewhere between the 5-0 start and the 2-game losing streak.
this season is already a success. With youth dominating both sides of the ball, UM still features one of the most dynamic offenses in the country and a defense that, well, only sometimes drives me to nearly jump into a
Every Saturday so far
is filled with an optimism, a sense of possibility that was missing the past two years. It is the air UM fans used to take for granted, and even though this season probably won’t ever by confused with some of the
seasons of years past, it is hard not to see a bright future for this team no matter how much of a UM-hating
you may be.
This Week’s Games
It was a weekend of upsets,highlighted by the third #1 team in a row to fall to a ranked opponent. This time, the Oklahoma Sooners were knocked off by one of the
in the Big 12, Missouri. With yet another #1 falling, it begs the question how the BCS will shake out at the end of the year, especially with non-AQ teams like Boise St. and TCU
beneath an invisible glass ceiling by the BCS computers and pollsters [Ed-M: Not to mention a schedule that's not...how shall we say...
* Coming off a 3-game win streak and winds in South Bend once again filled with a
of a Return to Glory, spirits were high at Notre Dame as they welcomed the Midshipmen of Navy. 367 yards on the ground and a thoroughly dominating 35-17 win by Navy a couple of hours later, the college football world was reminded that anyone trumpeting the reemergence of the Domers as a national power was simply
* Other major upsets this weekend included
at two former stops for Greg “touch of GERG” Robinson as Iowa State besting Texas for the first time (!!) in team history, while a Scott Schafer-led Syracuse defense (!!!) held West Virginia to 14 points in a stunning 19-14 win. As with politics, I will leave the
discussion about the team’s defensive performance to others.
* In other games of note, both Iowa and LSU suffered from
at the coaching position, as questionable coaching decisions by the Mad Hatter and Kirk Ferentz late in their games may have cost them wins against Wisconsin and Auburn, respectively. Senator Tressel went
against Purdue after last week’s demoralizing loss to the Badgers, drubbing the Boilermakers 49-0. The only disappointment was that the Vest didn’t break out this routine on the sidelines late in the game. Hey, hey! What's this I see? I thought this was a party. LET'S DANCE!
Mark Dantonio and Michigan State continued their unlikely run toward a Big 10 title and MNC berth (!!!!) as they rallied late against Northwestern, who blew the upset even though the Spartans once down 17 points. With only Iowa likely standing between MSU and a perfect season, I will now fill my body with
lest I be subjected to even more Sparty gloating.
* To no one’s surprise, the first game in which the Minnesota Golden Gophers were
after the dismissal of Tim Brewster ended rather badly, with Penn State earning its first Big 10 win rather handily despite being outgained by 80 yards. Perhaps a eccentric former Texas Tech coach will be walking the sidelines next year, though in that case I would like to see a name change to the Golden
This was originally a response to an earlier post, but I figured it would be fun to make it a post and expand a bit.
As told through Bruce Willis movie posters.
Game started out with the team looking:
and the team taking an early 7-0 lead with some nice stops. Then Iowa went on a run, scoring 21 straight points before the half as the offense imploded somewhat and everyone had a
that things were falling apart. The scene started to look bad as the fans began to boo with everyone's
Then Denard was hurt in the 3rd quarter and everyone was
Tate came in, but everything seemed a little off initially as him lining up under center felt like
Iowa then scored again to take a 21-point lead and the scene was pure
But then Tate led the team on a string of impressive scoring drives, and they refused to
UM pulled within and it looked like the game would be a classic in which the
would win. Unfortunately, the kicker then booted his second (!) kickoff out of bounds, leaving every fan seeing as Iowa was able to tag on a field goal to finish the scoring at 38-28, a tough loss but one that most felt had some bright spots, even though others feel that sentiment is a
Now for the next two weeks, there will be rumblings that perhaps Tate should be the starter over Denard, that an issue exists. I expect the airwaves to be held for the next two weeks as people wonder about this team and if a collapse is going to follow, though I ultimately expect this team play like they are and ultimately emerge as a
I noticed this article over at thebiglead.com, noticed it was written by tyduffy, and figured it would be a hatchet job. Good to know I wasn't disappointed.
The premise is that Birkett should not have been reprimanded for his "snarky" comment regarding Dorsey in the chat a couple of days ago. Now, without rehashing what others have said, I'll remind people that we are talking about a grown man on one side, with a captive audience and the ability to have his voice heard across a broad range of mediums, and a teenager who was just accepted to the University of Michigan to play football but with some skeletons in his closet. Those skeletons were dealt with by the legal system and his record is officially clean, but in the court of public opinion he certainly has a stained and imperfect reputation.
I think what people like tyduffy forget is that we are still talking about teenagers when we rail against recruits, and while this is not necessarily the case with Dorsey, oftentimes they come from less-than-ideal backgrounds both socially and economically. For some reason, we expect these young boys to act like professional athletes, scholars, and good citizens, completely ignoring the fact that many of their peers could barely qualify in one or two of these categories when they step onto campuses across America.
15- and 16-year-olds make mistakes all the time, breaking laws and social norms in ways that are perplexing to the 20, 30, 40, and 50-somethings that love to pass judgment on them. That doesn't mean we should condone delinquency in minors, but we should also not brand them as incurable and cast them off forever. To do so would be an unnecessary overreaction to the maturation process that everyone has gone through in their lives and needlessly imposing draconian punishment on relatively minor offenses; the proverbial "throwing out the baby with the bath water."
It is clear that Demar Dorsey was involved in some activities that, at best immature and at worst criminal. But the legal system took stock of these offenses and meted out a punishment (community service and rehabilitation) it felt was appropriate. Now if you have an issue with the punishment, take it up with the Florida legal system, but don't impugn Dorsey's character simply because he complied with their orders.
Tyduffy counters that while the legal system may be content, society at large should not be some quick to accept Dorsey back:
If someone pled down from convictions in two sexual assault cases and was acquitted at trial in a third, he doesn’t deserve to be treated as upstanding when he applies to coach the girls’ soccer team. AnnArbor.com acting as though he’s wholly innocent is laughable.
Now, beyond getting into the extremely tenuous and misguided logic applied here (comparing a potential rapist to a 17-year-old who stole some electronics), the author clearly is of the opinion that Dorsey is guilty of greater offenses than he admitted to, and that he escaped his "proper" punishment. Now, as an equal citizen under law, men like Tyduffy and Birkett is entitled to their opinions; but so is Rich Rodriguez, the UM athletic department, the admissions office, and everyone else who signed off on Dorsey being admitted to UM. Society allows you to be unhappy, but it doesn't mean everyone else has to share in your unhappiness.
But the author goes on to argue the rather obvious:
Demar Dorsey is receiving a second chance, because he’s a talented football player. As a mere student, that marred past most likely would have kept him from being admitted. Apparently, improving the football team trumps kids feeling safe with their laptops in the dorms.
Yes, Demar Dorsey received a second chance because he is good at football. And guess what - this favortism has been going on since the beginning of organized sports, and will continue well after Demar Dorsey leaves UM. Of course, if both his parents were alums, he was a valedictorian from a disadvantage region, he penned a popular or critically-lauded short story, or was a genius programmer, perhaps his transgressions would also have been overlooked. We have no idea how often such "exceptions" are made for other students because those stories aren't bandied about on talk radio, dragged out in excruciating detail by talking heads on ESPN, or haphazardly vilified by largely anonymous bloggers. They occur behind closed doors and in dusky admissions offices across America, and those individuals go on with their lives. Some surely fall into recidivism, but others learn from their mistakes and become upstanding members of society. They are given second chances because someone, somewhere decides that just because you make a mistake when you were 17 shouldn't define who you are for the rest of your life.
Now this post has gone on for far longer than I expected, so I'll be brief - Birkett's comment probably wasn't meant to be as offensive as it appeared, but it was also immature and unnecessary. This was acknowledged, and both sides would be best served to move on. But as for authors like Tyduffy who demand their pound of flesh from everyone who seems to have "beaten" the system, remember that just because you choose not to give someone the benefit of the doubt doesn't mean they shouldn't be given a second chance to prove you wrong.
Notes: Before getting started, there are a few caveats that need to be addressed.
- In all of my opponent metrics, I removed UM’s totals and then recalculated their numbers. This controls for the variances playing against UM’s offense/defense had on the statistics.
- I did not consider drives at the end of halves/games if they were designed to run the clock down.
- I removed stats against Baby Seal U for obvious reasons – record-breaking offensive days against middling FCS teams tells you nothing about the team except that it is better than a middling FCS team at home. I almost discounted EMU as well (0-10 doesn’t bode well for the English Era), but my wife received her Masters from EMU and thus for matrimonial harmony, the Eagles fly high in the rankings.
- Total yardage determined by rushing+passing and does not include return yardage. Rationale – yes, they affect the numbers somewhat, but not to any great extent and it would have created a whole new series of issues to correct for. This is the same reason why I did not account for penalty yardage.
- Offensive/defense scoring computed based on opposition’s plays, not defensive TDs (Wiscy&Iowa)/safeties (argh!)/return TDs. Did count toward total points, but same rationale as in 4.
- In computing scoring TOP, I did not count scoreless halves because they skewed the numbers needlessly.
- Link to the file can be found here.
So with only The Game standing between UM and either (1) the Pizza Pizza Bowl or (2) another offseason of virulent Freep attacks, I figured it would be a good time to take a step back and analyze this team’s performance this season. Now, I do not possess any particular insights into football that would separate me from the myriad of top-notch members of the MGoCommunity; I’m not a current/former player or coach with valuable insights into schemes, an “insider” with intimate knowledge of the AD’s inner workings, nor a recruiting maven with fresh info relating to future Wolverines.
What I realized, though, was that I could bring a big-picture outlook to this team if I could simply accumulate enough data points so that meaningful analysis was possible. Like many, I’m guilty of looking at a game or two and trying to ascertain some trends, some greater meaning from an incomplete set. So after suffering through the double gut-punches of Illinois and Purdue, I decided that to keep any sense of perspective on this team, I needed to compile the major offensive and defensive stats for the team and see if there was some positive trends, some glimmers of hope moving forward. What follows is the first part of this analysis, focusing on the revamped UM offense.
Going into the season, the lead story surrounding the offense was whether or not the read-option would flourish with two QB prospects physically capable of running the offense, of making the defense pay for biting on run fakes and QB runs. In the season preview, Brian saw the running offense being top-40 overall, based on the return of Brown and Minor, the expected play of non-Threet and non-Sheridan QBs, and the maturation of the offensive line.
For the most part, these expectations were met despite rarely having all the pieces in place. UM currently sits at 21st nationally in rushing offense with about 196 yards/gm, and though that does include Baby Seal U, it also includes MSU inexplicably holding the team to 28 yards when they normally give up about 106 yards/gm. And let’s nor forget the litany of factors that worked against the running game almost all year. The freshmen QBs have struggled at times with reads, and the loss of Molk and the subsequent shifts on the line certainly didn’t help matters. Minor and Brown have each missed significant chunks of the season with injuries, and the team as a whole has struggled to hold on to the damn ball. So to be a top-30 rushing offense while running at about 75% capacity bodes well moving forward.
But wait, what is that you say? You already knew that the running game was the bedrock of the offense, and why am I wasting your time with stuff you already know. Well, have you seen a chart of the running game for the whole season, including averages against only the Big 10/ND (henceforth referred to as “BND”) and removing the highest/lowest performances?
You have. Well…here is it again, with some bonus graphs:
Rushing Offense against ALL opponents
Opp Run Defense
*Difference between actual yardage and expected yardage given up by opposition
**% difference measured by yardage gained/expected yardage given up by opposition
Rushing Offense Averages & Standard Deviations
Remove H/L BND:**
Opp Run Defense
* High game = EMU, Low game = MSU
** High game = Purdue, Low game = MSU
Off the bat, you notice that the team averaged about 4.0 yds/carry against all competition, which is pretty impressive for such a young offense. At its best, West Virginia’s rushing offense averaged about 6 yards a carry, and that was against weaker competition and without corrections for Baby Sloth U and Premature Giraffe A&M. Even better, UM averages over 17 more yds/gm than their opponents usually allow, resulting in a rush offense that is 107% more “productive” than an average team going up against these defenses. And this efficiency was blind to the opponent; Iowa and PSU were both roughed up a bit on the ground even though both have above-average running defenses. Sure, there was also MSU and Wiscy, but those could be explained by a coach’s irrational, single-minded focus on beating the more established program (MSU) and a dearth of second-half offensive series because of a clock-chewing offense (Wiscy – discussed in further detail in the Overall Offense Analysis below).
Now, when you remove the MAC teams, the average dips to 3.2 yds/carry, which is a little distressing. As trolls are want to do, they would argue that this shows RR’s offense does not work in the Big 10, that you need big ol’ rhinos on the offensive line to move the ball successfully and that defenses have “figured out” how to stop the team.
But looking at the numbers with the high/low totals removed both overall and in the BND, I notice some encouraging signs. Against BND competition, the team still averaged about as many yards as the teams normally allowed, and throwing out the aberrations that were MSU and Purdue you have an offense that averaged about 6 more yards per game than expected. I know I’ve hammered on this point already, but that MSU game is a massive outlier here. To put it in perspective, here are things more explainable than MSU holding UM 140(!) yards below their year average, and 86(!!) yards under what MSU gave up against anyone else on the schedule:
As another factor/excuse for the poor numbers against certain teams, fumbles really killed this running offense. PSU and Illinois would likely have had much higher totals if the offense wasn’t giving it back at a near-record clip. The team had 10 fumbles overall, and 5 came in that 2-game span (and 8 if you include Iowa). This team really shot itself in the foot on a number of these plays, leaving yards and points on the field at the worst possible instances.
Injuries also played a major role in the running game’s struggles. Once Molk wound up on the injury list, the running game took a major step back for a couple of weeks until some continuity was reestablished. Losing Brown and especially Minor did hurt the numbers somewhat, but guys like Smith and Shaw filled the gaps nicely, and Robinson and Forcier brought the type of elusiveness and threat to the running game that was missing from last year. When the offensive line started to spring leaks, though, the running game definitely suffered.
Finally, it must be noted that some of the lowish rushing totals against teams like Illinois and PSU was due to the team being behind and resorting to the pass game to get back into those games. Given an adequate defense that helped to keep games closer, my guess is that the team would have averaged 30+ more yards in those games.
Overall, I think the numbers are very encouraging. Give Forcier and Robinson another year in this offense, and the number of bad reads on the option should drastically fall. Robinson should also become a more complete QB, meaning teams will have to respect his passing ability at least enough to buy him some time to run with his shoelaces untied through secondaries from across midwest and a small East Coast state. Losing guys like Brown and Minor will likely hurt productivity for the first few weeks next season as the stable of backs sort themselves out, but overall production probably will not suffer that much because the team never had a full dose of Brown or Minor for the whole season. Lots of those yards are coming back (about 53% of the rushing yards) or easily replaceable with the current and incoming players. This offense looks like those Denver Broncos running games of the late 90’s/00’s – plug in a decent back and the system will help produce solid yardage.
Now, the depth of the offensive line remains an issue, but it looks like there are at least options moving forward. Does that still mean you should continue to sacrifice small animals and cowbells to Angry Michigan Center Hating God? Sure, never hurts. But the running offense looks to be in good shape.
Whereas the rushing offense was expected to be above-average-to-good this year, the passing offense entered the season with numerous question marks. Would a deep threat emerge? Would the young QBs and receivers be able to establish themselves and produce against good competition? Would a slot ninja emerge to kill slow LBs for big gains and provide the type of balance this offense needs?
Obviously, nobody was expecting miracles with two freshmen QBs, a former walk-on, and Febreeze comprising the QB corp. Yet after the first few weeks, I was looking to the heavens as Forcier ate up defenses and crapped Moxie on the way to a 4-0 start and a competent passing game. Then the injuries to Forcier began to affect his ability to stay on the field, Robinson proved to be a run-first, run-second QB, the freshmen hit the metaphorical wall, and defenses realized that UM still couldn’t pass block and had no legit deep threats. Add this all up, and the passing game took a bit of a hit in the middle of the season. It did right itself toward the end, most notably when Roy Roundtree introduced himself as a potential slot ninja along with Odoms. Add to the mix the slew of incoming WRs in this recruiting class, and it is safe to say that the passing offense will continue to grow and become even more explosive next year.
But enough with words; I know why you’re here. And there is nothing wrong with that, no matter what people in the media may say. I mean, if they didn’t want you to see them, why would this page be filled with…
Passing Offense against ALL opponents
|Team||WMU||ND||EMU||Indiana||MSU @||Iowa @||PSU||Illinois @||Purdue||Wiscy @|
|Opp Passing Defense||261.8||237||166||247.5||247.2||169.9||181.9||237.8||196||209.3|
Passing Offense Averages & Standard Deviations
|Overall||StdDev:||BND||StdDev||Remove High/Low*||StdDev||Remove H/L in BND**||StdDev|
|Opp Passing Defense||215.4||35.3||215.8||30.7||218.8||34.2||217.8||31.5|
** High game = Illinois, Low game = PSU
So right off the bat, you probably noticed that the passing game never eclipse 300 yards; heck, it only cracked 240 twice. This was a little shocking to me because (a) it always seemed like passing game was picking up large chinks of yardage when it was humming along, (b) I always presumed that the short passes to the slots would result in voluminous yards after the catch, and (c) I grew up in the era of Dreisbach/Griese/Brady/Navarre/Henne, where passing yards fell from the heavens into the waiting hands of future NFL players like Manningham, Edwards, Hayes, Avant, and Walker. And it is not like the completion percentage was particularly low – 55% overall and 57% against the BND by two freshman QBs is certainly respectable. Plus, when the passes connected, the yardage was significant – around 13 yards/catch, and only two games under 10 yards/catch. And it should be noted that one of those games below 10 yards/catch was EMU, where the offense rolled to 380 yards on the ground. So it was not like Johnny Sears put the fear of God into the coaching staff; there just wasn’t a need to air it out.
So why the relative paucity of passing yards? My guess (and I certainly welcome other opinions) is that the receivers and the QBs never found the confidence and mutual reliance that some earlier teams featured between battery mates. Guys like Henne and Navarre had unflagging confidence in their blue-chip wide receivers; in a pinch, they knew they could throw it up and more likely than not Walker or Edwards was going to come down with it. With a clear alpha acknowledge, guys like Avant and Breaston fell into their appropriate roles and the offense was able to gain the rhythm it needed to function optimally. Plus, the QBs knew they had time because the line kept them upright for the most part, allowing their receivers to work down the field and exploit favorable matchups.
Contrast that with the current team. Both QBs are prone to tuck and run when the pressure comes, and that has been a common theme all season; QBs running around a shifting pocket as blitzers come in free. And when the QBs have had time to throw the ball, there have been just enough drops and overthrown passes that no receiver has emerged as the go-to guy. Mathews has been a nice possession receiver, but his lack of elite speed or size doesn’t make him the safety blanket a young QB likes. I thought Koger would have been the check down receiver of dreams early on, but after a spectacular start the drops started to crop up and Forcier in particular seemed to lose faith in Koger as the season progressed. Now, Roundtree and Odoms have both emerged as legit options going forward, and Junior Hemmingway is tantalizing, but none of them have assumed the mantle of a legit #1 wide receivers on this team, at least not this year.
Another major reason why the yardage has been down in the air is probably due to the fact that the QBs are freshmen (hey, did I mention that earlier?) and they are prone to tuck the ball and run for some daylight when possible. This is especially true of Robinson, who is basically one read and then go, but early in the season Tate was prone to taking off when his first and second options were not immediately open. As the season has progressed, both QBs have become more comfortable passing (the last three weeks have seen significant increases in completion percentages and yardage), and that bodes well moving forward and into next year.
Finally, the lack of passing yards at least early on was due to the fact the team really didn’t need to throw the ball to be competitive. Only recently have games been getting out of hand early; outside of PSU and (maybe) Wiscy, most of the games were competitive well into the third quarter. The coaching staff clearly does not want to put too much pressure on the QBs to throw the ball, so running was a more attractive option until late in the game. It also didn’t help that the team ran into some relatively decent passing defenses (Iowa, PSU, Wiscy) toward the latter part of the season, resulting in some pretty low games.
But despite all the doom and gloom with the passing yardage, every other stat was encouraging. The team was slightly below expected output against the BND, but again that was probably due to the coaching staff limiting the number of attempts plus playing some defense pass defenses. The yardage per completion remained between 12 and 13 yards irrespective of opponents, and neither freshman had particularly bad INT numbers (Forcier with 6, Robinson with 4).
You have to expect the completion percentage to jump about 60% next year as both QBs and the cavalcade of WRs become more acclimated to the system. My prediction is that Forcier will cut down on his rushing stats but passing yardage will go up, and Robinson will become far closer to the dual-threat Shoelace everyone has dreamed about since he signed with UM. There remains concerns about the offensive line’s ability to provide adequate pass protection, but the team showed some flexibility this year with a moving pocket and other means of alleviating the pressure and putting the QB in the best position to make a play. The slot(s) seemed locked down by Roundtree and Odoms for next year, and hopefully a legit deep threat will emerge.
Total Offense and Per-Half Breakdowns
So now that you know the component elements, how did the offense acquit itself this year? Well, see for yourself.
Total Offense against ALL opponents:
|WMU||ND||EMU||Indiana||MSU @||Iowa @||PSU||Illinois @||Purdue||Wiscy @|
|Opp Total Defense||436.1||386||434.8||411.1||360.9||292||274.2||402.9||363||312|
|Average Yds/Scoring play||7.6||9.5||11.8||12.8||6.6||5.7||5.4||4.3||8.4||6.1|
Total Offense Averages & Standard Deviations:
|Overall||StdDev:||BND||StdDev||Remove High/Low*||StdDev||Remove H/L in BND**||StdDev||Removed MSU|
|Opp Total Defense||367.3||58.0||350.3||51.6||370.5||49.2||346.2||44.2||368.0|
** High game = ND, Low game = PSU
So yes, the offense averaged a couple less yards than the opposing defenses typically gave up. That kind of makes sense – the team is 5-6, and by these stats 4-6. They should be a somewhat “average” offense considering who they played. That said, I do not think it can be stressed enough how much the MSU game threw off these stats. Discount that game and the offense is putting up about as many yards are your would expect, and that is pretty amazing when you consider the litany of factors working against this offense. And yes, I recognize that the vast improvements in special teams produced short fields for the offense to work on. So if you feel particularly generous, slap on 5-10 yards to the offensive totals. See if I care.
These stats also shows that you should NEVER discount one man’s obsession with beating an in-state rival, even if that preparation and intensity is never duplicated against anyone else.
As for the times the offense scored, you definitely see the origins of the quick-strike, yardage-chewing beast that once ruled Morgantown and half of the Deep South. When a drive ended in a score, the offense averaged nearly 8 yards per play overall, and 7.3 against the BND. That is impressive given how mediocre the offense was statistically and how good some of the defense they faced played them. With another year under Rodriguez’s tutelage, expect those numbers to go up even more, maybe even topping 8-9 yards against BND.
Breakdown by Half:
Did you really think I would leave you with such a macro analysis? Sure, I plan on really delving into down and distances in the offseason, but I think it is important to see how the team played across halves, when both teams could make “adjustments” and the tone of the game was more pronounced. So what follows are charts that, frankly, nearly killed my eyesight and my computer. But enjoy.
First Half Stats:
Offense Against ALL Opponents – First Half:
|Total Drives - 1st Half||7||6||6||9||3||6||8||4||5||6|
|Total Plays Run||40||29||28||31||21||31||43||37||30||44|
|Total Offensive Points||31||10||24||21||6||7||10||13||24||10|
|Total Points Scored||31||17||24||21||6||14||10||13||24||17|
|Point Differential - 1st half||31||-3||7||-2||-4||-6||-9||6||14||-4|
|Scoring Average TOP||2:20||2:09||1:34||1:33||3:38||4:43||2:39||4:16||2:19||2:51|
|Total Scoring Drives||5||3||4||3||2||1||2||3||4||2|
|Total Scoring Plays||34||19||20||14||18||12||19||31||27||15|
|Total Scoring Yds||259||221.0||251||197||62||72||103||132||252||80|
|Average Scoring Plays||6.8||6.3||5.0||4.7||9.0||12.0||9.5||10.3||6.8||7.5|
|Average Scoring Yds||51.8||73.7||62.8||65.7||31.0||72.0||51.5||44.0||63.0||40.0|
|% Scoring Drives||71.4%||50.0%||66.7%||33.3%||66.7%||16.7%||25.0%||75.0%||80.0%||33.3%|
Offense Against ALL Opponents – Second Half:
|Total Drives - 2nd Half||5||7||7||6||9||7||6||7||8||4|
|Total Plays Run||38||45||26||25||39||37||31||31||40||21|
|Total Points Scored||0||21||21||15||14||14||0||0||12||7|
|Scoring Average TOP||0:00||2:19||1:18||2:03||1:47||4:24||0:00||0:00||1:38||3:04|
|Total Scoring Drives||0||3||3||2||2||2||0||0||2||1|
|Total Scoring Plays||0||20||12||11||16||21||0||0||10||8|
|Total Scoring Yds||0||148||127||122||161||116||0||0||57||60|
|Average Scoring Plays||0.00||6.7||4.0||5.5||8.0||10.5||0.0||0.0||5.0||8.0|
|Average Scoring Yds||0.00||49.3||42.3||61.0||80.5||58.0||0.0||0.0||28.5||60.0|
|% Scoring Drives||0.00%||42.86%||42.86%||33.33%||22.22%||28.57%||0.00%||0.00%||25.00%||25.00%|
Offense Average and Standard Deviation for First Half:
|Overall||StdDev:||BND||StdDev||Remove High/Low*||StdDev||Remove H/L in BND**|
|Total Drives - 1st Half||6.0||1.8||5.9||2.0||6.0||1.2||5.8|
|Total Plays Run||33.4||7.4||33.3||7.7||35.3||6.5||35.7|
|Total Offensive Points||15.6||8.7||12.6||6.5||16.1||8.9||12.3|
|Total Points Scored||17.7||7.5||15.3||5.8||18.8||7.0||15.8|
|Point Differential - 1st half||3.0||12.1||-1.0||7.4||4.5||13.2||-0.3|
|Scoring Average TOP||2:48||1:04||3:01||1:05||2:51||1:04||3:09|
|Total Scoring Drives||2.9||1.2||2.5||0.9||3.0||1.3||2.5|
|Total Scoring Plays||20.9||7.4||19.4||6.5||22.1||7.8||20.5|
|Total Scoring Yds||162.9||81.2||139.9||73.8||171.3||82.3||143.3|
|Average Scoring Plays||7.8||2.4||8.3||2.4||8.0||2.4||8.7|
|Average Scoring Yds||55.5||14.2||55.1||15.8||57.3||12.5||57.4|
|% Scoring Drives||48.3%||42.6%||50.0%||42.9%|
* High game = Indiana, Low game = MSU
** High game = Indiana, Low game = MSU
Offense Average and Standard Deviation – Second Half:
|Overall||Std Dev:||BND||Std Dev:||High/Low Remove*||Std Dev:||H/L BND Remove**||Std Dev:|
|Total Drives - 2nd Half||6.6||1.4||6.75||1.5||6.6||0.9||6.8||0.8|
|Total Plays Run||33.3||7.7||33.6||8.1||34.1||7.0||34.8||7.2|
|Total Points Scored||10.4||8.2||10.4||7.5||10.4||9.1||10.3||8.5|
|Scoring Average TOP||2:22||1:03||2:32||1:02||2:20||1:12||1:44||1:39|
|Total Scoring Drives||1.5||1.2||1.5||1.1||1.5||1.3||1.5||1.2|
|Total Scoring Plays||9.8||7.9||10.8||8.1||9.3||8.6||10.3||9.2|
|Total Scoring Yds||79.1||63.7||83.0||63.1||71.3||64.4||73.8||64.5|
|Average Scoring Plays||4.8||3.8||5.5||3.8||4.0||3.8||4.6||4.1|
|Average Scoring Yds/Play||5.8||4.4||5.9||4.1||5.0||4.6||5.0||4.3|
|Average Scoring Yds||38.0||29.4||42.2||29.7||29.9||26.7||32.8||27.8|
|% Scoring Drives||21.98%||16.71%||22.12%||15.08%||21.58%||18.90%||21.63%||17.79%|
So what do all of these tables mean? I’m not really sure. There clearly are some trends and indicators of how this offense should run. In the first half of games, the offense scores on about half of its possession irrespective of opponent, and does so quickly (about 2:30 minutes/score). It also does so rather spectacularly – over 7 yards per play. Even in games that got away, the offense usually stayed with its opposition for at least a half.
Of course, the second half is a completely different story. Scoring % dipped to 1 in 4 possessions, and yards per scoring play also dropped precariously. So basically the offense slowed down significantly after half time and, even worse, took longer to score when it did. Looking at the situation half-full, the offense took about the same amount to actual game time to score, meaning the quicker pace of the passing game coupled with some runs kept defenses on their toes. Unfortunately, that also means the team relied more heavily on the evolving passing game than the more consistent run game, which led to shorter drives that stalled out.
Now, I think these numbers also go the struggles in the defense all year. While I will tackle the defense in greater detail soon, what you notice is that while the offense moved pretty efficiently in the first half, the second half was marked by fewer drivers that ended quicker. Now, part of the reason was the aforementioned increase in passing because the defense was giving up points at such a rapid clip and the offense tried to keep up. That regretfully fed a cycle UM could not get out of against the likes of Illinois, PSU, and Wiscy – the defense would give up some points, the offense would try to counter by instead stall out quickly, forcing the defense back on the field quickly and into even more pain. ND was probably the team’s best win all season, and it was highlighted by an efficient offense both halves. Conversely, Illinois was probably the worst loss and it featured a massive drop in efficiency across the halves.
EDIT: I forgot to add these two paragraphs to this section, not the defensive analysis forthcoming
But to bag on the defense as the sole reason for the offense's struggles in the second half would be to overlook a myriad of other factors. The defense has been largely consistent all year; consistently average, but still average. When the team was 4-0, it was still handing out yards in alligator-sized chunks, but the offense found a way to keep pace. Against ND and Indiana, the offenses were relatively consistent in terms of scoring rate across both halves. Now, you may argue that those defenses are proverbial tramps - anyone can score on them. And to an extent, I agree. But how does that account for Illinois and Purdue, two teams with equally-trampish defenses that basically shut down UM in the second halves of those games? True, some costly turnovers happened in those games that severely hurt scoring potential, but the yardage didn't dramatically falter or somehow explain away the massive drop-off in scoring.
While this is more based on reaction than analytical fact, I do think the lack of a dominant back and/or receiver really started to wear this team down in the second halves of games and the entire season, especially near the goal line. When this offense is clicking, backs are breaking tackles and driving into the end zone while receivers are finding seams and exploiting them. Roundtree looks to be a legit threat next year in the red zone, but the lack of a healthy Brandon Minor all year really limited what this team could do in the red zone. We all remember Illinois, but there were a couple other games when the team settled for field goals and tough passes instead of just running the ball into the end zone. That goes to a lack of a feature back who is capable of making these types of plays. Note that I didn't say he had to be a beast like Minor'; Mike Hart was one of the best at sniffing out the end zone. The defense is not going to be good for at least 2 years, but it will be helped immensely if the offense can score in the red zone and chew up some clock in the process. A dominant back will go a long way toward meeting that goal.
Final Word: I would love to hear what others think about this post and the data. I have included a link to the file for those to download, and I welcome any suggestions or criticisms. This offense is clearly making headway, and once it shores up its major deficiencies (most notably experience at key positions), I fully expect it to mirror the type of offense that RR has showcased at other schools.
Below are some charts - yes, charts - showing how the defense stacks up after three games, both this year and last year. Please take these charts with a massive grain of salt, but I was still a little surprised by the findings. Also, I know that the defense last year was statistically one of the worst in UM's history, but I still think that was due more to the offense's inability to stay on the field than a complete implosion by the defense.
So not as bad as I thought. Points are just about equal (one of ND's 2008 touchdowns was on a fumble return, which I did not attribute to the defense). The passing yards are essentially the same, with the rushing defense clearly taking a step back. At least part of that rushing difference, though, can be attributed to the Herculean effort the defense put on Utah, holding them to 0.8 yards per carry on 43(!) attempts in the first game of 2008. Put their average from last year (157 yds/gm), and you have effectively the same defensive effort.
But what about the offenses faced? Were the offenses UM faced last year statistically better or worse than the ones they have faced so far? I wanted to find out, so I go again to my trusty excel chart.*
*Note, the national rankings for the 2009 opponents only includes the first 2 games (since today's games are not complete). Also, I included both the final and after-3-games totals for the 2008 offenses.
|Teams||Utah||Miami (NTM)||ND||AVERAGE RANKING|
|After 3 games|
2009 - after 2 games
So yeah, the defense is struggling a bit, but certainly not to the extent people first envisioned. While I will update the 2009 numbers when they are posted, both ND and WMU have/are putting a hurting on their most recent opponents, and EMU showed some competence against both UM and NW. As you can see, the rush defense might have been helped by the fact that both ND and Miami (NTM) trotted out some of the worst rushing offenses last year, and Utah was the first game of the year against a fresh defensive front. This year it is clear that the line is a work in progress, and the LBs need to tackle better, but those were trouble spots everyone expected. Not to harp on the Denny Green meme, but the front 7 are who we thought they were - incredibly shallow with some clear weaknesses. Still, the rush defense is ranked #43 (last year it finished #50), and my guess is that it will improve somewhat as the season progresses and some of the younger players get their feet under them and GERG's principles become more familiar.
As for the passing defenses, they are remarkably similar statistically. Sure, Cissoko has struggled mightily this year, but don't forget that last year Stevie was letting bombs soar over his head and receivers scoot by him virtually unmolested. Angry Secondary Michigan Hating God works in mysterious ways, but apparently the pox can never be eradicated; just moved to a different victim. It should be noted that they have faced two top-30 passing offenses so far this season, so perhaps we shouldn't read that heavily into the fact that the backfield has been exposed somewhat. Currently the defense is 87th in passing defense, but that happens when you face top-30 passing attacks. Last year they finished #79, and I would be amazed if the pass defense didn't finish in the 60's or even the 50's by the end of the season.
So I guess my conclusion is that while the defense has struggled somewhat this year, let's not forget that it wasn't some juggernaut last year. For all of Cissoko's recent failings and the struggles of the front 7 against the run, the team is not that far away from last year's numbers, and should probably exceed them once the sample size increases. Yes, PSU and OSU will likely run all over the D, but that should surprise nobody. Those are top-notch offenses with dynamic playmakers in the backfield. But I like what I'm seeing so far under GERG - tackling alone seems light-years ahead of last year, the players seem to get the scheme, the young guys, especially Roh, look legit, and Warren and Graham have been revelations. I'm not saying this defense will approach 1997 or 2006, but I do think it will grade out better than people expect.
I would love to hear what people who know far more about football, especially on the defensive side, think of this defense and how it should look going forward.
EDIT: I have updated the rankings for this year's offenses after 3 games. Overall, they match up quite similarly to last year's offenses after 3 games, when the defense was touted as one of the best. My take is that while the defense certainly has to improve, I think that it will certainly be better than last year's because the offense should protect it via sustained drives and, hopefully, less turnovers resulting in bad field position.
2009 - after 3 games
Listen guys, I know this week’s been tough. Everyone is counting us out, questioning our heart, our determination, our will to win. The fans and media say this team is a rudderless ship, taking on water and circling the drain. They say we are still looking for our identity, that we are missing some pieces to the puzzle and they doubt we’ll be able to pull together and find our way. They say it’s going to be another rebuilding year, that we’ll stay the doormat while our rivals sip from the cup of glory.
They say I’m on the hot seat, that I’m under fire and that the AD and Boosters ain’t happy about the product I’m putting out on the field. They say the inmates are running the asylum, that I’ve lost control of this team and that there is dissention in the ranks. They wonder if I’ll make it to the end of the season, and I’ll admit that the buck stops with me.
Our rivals are licking their lips and ready to give us the business, and they can’t wait to come into our house and beat the snot out of us. They are looking for revenge and retribution, and they’ve got some bad intentions. They can smell blood in the water, and they are circling in for the kill. They are going for our jugular, gentlemen.
And the media is saying that this team isn’t a family anymore, that we are bunch of individuals and not a cohesive unit. They say we’ve got too many off-the-field distractions, that our heads are not in this game and that we don’t have leadership at the top. They say we’re on the ropes, and ripe for a knockout. They say that this first game is a “Must Win,” that this game will define our season for us. One week until the biggest game our lives.
We are in hell gentlemen.
Now if we go out there, and we half-ass it 'cause we're scared, all we're left with is an excuse; we're always gonna wonder. But if we go out there, and we give it absolutely everything - that's heroic.
We’ve just got to dig deeper, deeper than we’ve ever dug before. We’ve got to find that inner demon, that eye of the tiger. I don’t believe anything they are saying about us out there; the only opinions I care about are from the men in this lockerroom. And what I’ve seen and heard is a team that is tired of getting dirt kicked in its face, is tired of being told that it can’t win, that is doesn’t know how to play the game the right way. I see a team that’s been cornered like a wild animal.
And you want to know what happens when you corner an animal – it comes out fighting for its life. We are fighting for the way we live our lives men, the way Michigan Men play this game. We are fighting for respect, for the right to be considered champions again. We’re on a mission gentlemen, to claw our way back into the light. I don't care if you like each other of not, but you will respect each other. And maybe... I don't know, maybe we'll learn to play this game like men.
That means we need to be willing to give 110% every time we step out onto that field. I’ve seen the blood, sweat, and tears that you guys have given to this program during the offseason. There is no other group of guys I’d rather go into battle with than the men in this room. Because we are going to lose as a team, and we damn sure are going to win as a team.
Football is a game of inches gentlemen, and on this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us to pieces for that inch. We CLAW with our finger nails for that inch. Because every game this season is going to be a war, and we are going to have to earn everything we get. Nobody is going to hand us a victory; we are going to have to take it from them. This game is four quarters, and don’t take a play off. Nobody believes in us right now; let’s go out there and give them something to believe in.
The first quarter, hit them in the mouth and let them know that they’re playing football. They start talking, you keep quiet and play your game. Play within yourself, but just keep coming. And look out for each other, and if someone makes his mistake, clean it up for him.
Second quarter, turn up the heat. Don’t give them anything easy. They want to run it on you, make them pay. They want to throw it by you, make them pay. They try to stop you, make them pay. I want them to look over on our side of the field and realize that they’re in for the fight of their lives. I want them checking their plane tickets at halftime to see if they can go home sooner.
Third quarter, they’re going to get tired, but you’ll keep coming. You are the best-conditioned team in the country, and your heart is the strongest muscle in your body. You just keep hitting them, you keep scoring, and you’ll see the fear in their eyes.
Fourth quarter, that’s when champions are revealed. You are going to need to take your game to another level, gentlemen, but you have laid the foundation and you know, in your heart of hearts, that you can get there.
Now, this season is going to test you gentlemen. There are going to be times when you want to give up, when you don’t think you can give anything more. But that’s when you have to band together and pick each other, support your brother out there and raise all of your games to places you never dreamt possible.
We’re in the business of winning football games, and business is about to pick up. So let’s go out there and shock the world. Go Blue!